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Italy's new interior minister shuts ports to migrant rescue ship

Matteo Salvini, new interior minister of Italy, refused to grant permission for a rescue vessel carrying 629 migrants to dock. For migrants coming from North Africa to Europe, Italy is the main hub for entrySalvini's right-wing League promised during the recent elections that it would be strict on immigration. The Aquarius, the rescue vessel carrying migrants, was instructed by the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre to stand in the current position which is 27 nautical miles from Malta and 35 nautical miles from Italy. Earlier Salvini stated that Malta should accept the migrants. To this Malta responded that the migrants were picked from Libyan waters which fall under the jurisdiction of Italy.  

The rescue vessel, the Aquarius, is run by a German charity SOS Méditerranée. It reported that migrants were picked up in six rescue operations from the coast of Libya. The UN refugee agency in Italy stated that the migrants must be disembarked quickly and safely from the Aquarius. According to SOS Méditerranée, the migrants on board include 123 unaccompanied minors and 11 younger children. Anelise Borges, a journalist, stated that minors are from Ghana, Eritrea, Nigeria and Sudan. Alessandro Porro, a crew member of the Aquarius, told an Italian media outlet that migrants desperately want to know which port they will be going to and some 50 of them were at the risk of drowning.  

Salvini stated on Sunday that Malta does not take any immigrants, Spain defends its coast with weapons and France pushes immigrants back. He argued that Malta is closer to Africa than Sicily; hence, it should accept more migrants. Italy now says no to illegal immigration and human trafficking. He has also called upon Rome to increase deportations of migrants and proposed to relocate the asylum seekers across the EU. Such a proposal has been denied by a majority of the EU members. He has also vowed to take action against organizations rescuing migrants from the sea as he believes they are with people-smugglers. Critics of the current Italian government opposed Salvini on the issue as it can create a humanitarian crisis.  

  • Italy
  • Sicily
  • Malta
  • Migrants
  • Libya